By PHILLIP MOLNAR as published in the Monterey Herald
“Sgt. MacDonald is one of the last living horse cavalrymen and was the toast of this year’s event.”
There is something romantic about a soldier charging into battle on horseback.
It has been nearly a century since any army seriously went at their enemy on a horse, but that did not stop a celebration on Saturday for the more sentimental among us.
More than 150 people attended the fourth annual Veterans Day celebration by the Friends of the Fort Ord Warhorse nonprofit at the Marina Equestrian Center.
They talked about the glory days of war horses, preserving its history and the “pivotal” moment when the U.S. Army dismounted its cavalry during World War II.
Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Allan A. MacDonald, 90, said he is still “PO’d” the Army ended the cavalry.
MacDonald is one of the last living horse cavalrymen and was the toast of this year’s event. He attended the event in full uniform with his trusted white mustang, Comanche II.
The Marina man said he used to patrol the border of Mexico on horseback when he was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas — something he thought was more effective than current methods.
“Now they can hear the planes coming,” he said of immigrants.
MacDonald was never in combat on horseback but he did have an illustrious career that spanned the globe.
He was the stable sergeant for Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan, made nine trips to Turkey to deliver some 1,200 horses and mules for the Turkish Army and was stationed in Australia, the Philippines and Korea.
After he retired in 1965 he came to Fort Ord to work as a supply driver.
MacDonald got permission to bury the last war horse used at Fort Ord, named Comanche, at the end of a trail named after him. The trail begins at the equestrian center and ends at the grave in Fort Ord National Monument.
He said he named his current horse Comanche II because they look similar. The mare is known to get a little “excitable,” MacDonald said. She even knocked over a 94-year-old veteran, who got up quickly, during a photo attempt.
Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado named MacDonald the “cultural ambassador” of the city at the event. MacDonald was also presented with a bench with his name on it to go in Fort Ord National Monument.
The celebration took place in the courtyard between the four buildings that made up the Fort Ord Station Veterinary Hospital for war horses.
Click (HERE) to see video of event
There were a minimum of 1,400 horses and mules on the base in the early 1940s, according to the Friends of the Fort Ord Warhorse.
The nonprofit has worked to restore the buildings, as well as connect the area to Fort Ord National Monument through trails and greenways.
“These World War II war horse buildings capture that mammoth shift in military history as if frozen in amber,” said Margaret Davis, director of the nonprofit.
Horses still show up from time to time in American conflicts, usually in ceremonial units. But there are notable exceptions.
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers rode horseback with the Afghan Northern Alliance in the early weeks of the Afghanistan War, experiencing intense combat. Their story resulted in the 2009 book “Horse Soldiers” and a statue in New York City.
In August, the Marines unveiled a statue of a chestnut mare named Sgt. Reckless who was used in the Korean War.
Purchased for $250 from a Korean boy in 1952, Reckless enjoyed scrambled eggs, chocolate bars and beer, according to Military.com. She also carried ammunition and wounded soldiers.
Iraq War veteran John Fornbacher of Pleasant Hill was at Saturday’s event as part of a historic reenactment group. He said vehicles in Iraq were constantly getting damaged by sand, so a horse might not be so bad in modern warfare.
“Horses, man,” he said, “you don’t need to worry about them missing a spark plug.”